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Considering Cycling as Your #1 Transport Option?

No one wants this scenario to occur, but it’s worth speculation: what should you consider if you’ve gone carless? This is a short guide on what you need to know if you’re looking to use a bicycle as an alternate or primary form of transportation for everyday riding.

I often wonder if we’ll see a day when cyclists will outnumber motorists.

My primary transportation is a bike. I don’t have a car because the expense is not worth it. With the price of gasoline continually rising and state of oil making everything more expensive, maybe more people will make this same choice.

No one wants this scenario to occur, but it’s worth speculation: what should you consider if you’ve gone carless? This is a short guide on what you need to know if you’re looking to use a bicycle as an alternate or primary form of transportation for everyday riding.

What kind of bike is best for me?

That depends!

If you’re interested in getting somewhere fast you need a bike with a lightweight frame, like a road bike. The drawback of a road bike is that gravel and potholes can literally throw you off course.

If you’re facing a lot of potholes, broken glass, and rough riding, you’ll need a more durable bike. An all-terrain or mountain bike with thick, knobby tires, shock-absorbing suspension, and a sturdy frame might work. The downside of an all-terrain bike is that its bulk makes riding on the street pretty slow.

My bike is a hybrid. It has features of both road bikes and mountain bikes making it a great choice for everyday transportation. Like mountain bikes, hybrids’ handlebars are flat allowing for a more upright riding posture. But hybrid bikes have lighter frames and components than mountain bikes and feature a larger wheel rim for added speed. However the tires are wider than a road bike’s tires, making it easier to ride along uneven surfaces.

There are several models within the hybrid category:

  • Comfort bikes: In my opinion, comfort bikes’ frames tend to be heavier than I like, but they are very easy to ride.
  • Cross bikes are modeled after road bike frames and wheel sizes with slightly wider tires to handle road hazards. I own a cross bike.
  • Commuter bikes are similar to cross bikes, but have attachments for racks and baskets.
  • City bikes include both a light frame and thicker tires – better for bulldozing over hazards.

From my experience with hybrids, the drawback of Commuters and Cross is that the tires are fairly smooth and narrow, which is good for speed and longer distances, but not ideal for gravel, potholes, or ice.

Any hybrid is great for everyday biking, but each person should make a decision based on road conditions, weather patterns, as well as one’s physical ability to bike. For less experienced bikers, Comfort Bikes and City Bikes are fine choices.

Because buying a bicycle is ultimately a matter of personal preference, this bike-buying guide can further help you see what to look for when test-riding a new bike.

Is it possible to get around only with a bike?

It is, but doing so entails the following considerations.

For carrying groceries and other items you’ll need to install racks and baskets on the bicycle. This can be as simple as bunjee-cording a milk crate onto a rack, but there are also many types of racks, baskets, and panniers commercially available. You’d be surprised by how much you can carry.

For larger items it’s not so easy. Bike trailers do exist. Trailers can be purchased commercially, and you can also make your own. This link includes instructions on how to build your own bike trailer using the metal from a discarded bike frame. (Note: I haven’t tried this myself, but at least we know it’s possible.)

For riding at night, you do need to install lights. Bikes come with reflectors, but those aren’t good enough. It’s best to have a lamp attached to your front handlebars and a red lamp attached to the rear of the bike.

Finally, cycling means that you will be exposed to weather. Dress accordingly. While I dislike spending a lot of money, technical gear from a bike shop or online bike catalog is really nice to have for cold weather. Lightweight, wind resistant material keeps you warm and allows you to maneuver the bike safely. For example, it’s impossible to glance over your shoulder to check for cars if you’re wearing a coat with a huge hood.

How can I take care of the bike?

Each new bike comes with a manual that includes instructions on how to perform basic maintenance. Use this manual to become familiar with how your bike works. Do you know how to remove the front and rear wheels? Do you know how to adjust the seat and handlebars? Do you know how to patch an inner tube?

Bare bones maintenance includes keeping the bike clean, the chain well-oiled, and the tires full of air.

The essential bike emergency kit would include a frame pump, a patch kit, tire levers, a spare inner tube, and a set of Allen wrenches. In addition, you need a floor pump with a pressure gauge to keep the tires inflated to the proper level.

Owning a bike means getting to know its quirks and treating them when necessary. This website offers a bike tune up and bike repair guide that can help diagnose and treat problems and teach you how to perform a do it yourself tuneup.

While there’s a lot to learn about bikes, relying on your own pedal power and performing your own maintenance is extremely rewarding. That’s why I didn’t wait for a worst case scenario to get into bikes. Cycling is great exercise, it saves a lot of money and energy, and you get the best parking places. Bicycling is also a wonderful way to spend time with your family and teach kids about joy of self-propelled transport. Let’s ride!


Lauren is a blogger for the website www.pathacross.com, which is dedicated to sharing information and experiences on becoming more self reliant. Raised in a family of cyclists, Lauren considers biking a powerful expression of self reliance and a crucial survival skill.

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on February 1st, 2010

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